Columbia, Missouri, 2011
ganged with bright, blue-fringed petals that grew
deeper into their lavender each dusk, each dusk I,
freshly off work and on foot, feet slip resistant and pants
khakied, used the little bushes as distraction, walking toward
the vermillion of a never-ending horizon. to head south,
from Papa John’s on Broadway to Campus View Dr. meant tramping
from downtown Columbia, through the university’s campus,
until the campus became no more, just a freeway leading to home, 4-lanes
of traffic, chicory, and the gravel and debris of Missouri-163. by mile 2, I was shirtless,
my penny-brown torso slightly boyish and bare, save for the black lettering
across my glistening clavicle, my shoulders sporting the braided straps
of a draw-string bag stuffed with the soiled garments of a workday.
green pepper and onion stench fusing with the mesh of miscellaneous documents.
and each night, grandma’s voice was an echo in my head,
“make sure you wear something bright so they can see you on that road,”
but, even as the sun set, the Missouri heat was far too bold.
and though no lone, white-tailed carcass lumped the pathway
that really wasn’t a pathway, I still thought obsessively of death.
or disappearance. of Lloyd Gaines, or the disaster it would be
if any of the drivers should miss me
amongst the small wildness of purple.
HEAR EL WILLIAMS READ HIS POEM